A MAJOR insurer is offering free counselling to policy holders making a claim – including Hampshire people affected by Storm Christoph.

Zurich, which employs 600 people in Whiteley, said it was responding to a national demand for more mental health support.

It will offer five free short-term counselling sessions for all UK policy holders in the process of making a claim. The benefit will also apply to immediate family members over 18.

David Nichols, head of UK claims at Zurich UK, said: “With work and home stresses becoming further entrenched, adding additional problems to navigate to someone who may already be experiencing heightened mental health issues must be addressed and mitigated.

“Making any insurance claim is often a time of heightened uncertainty and it is therefore necessary that we as insurers do the right thing for our customers who might already be at the end of their tether due to lockdown.”

Storm Christoph batters Hampshire

Hampshire was battered yesterday by the high winds and heavy rain of Storm Christoph.

Mr Nichol said: “Recent storms like Ciara and Dennis alone caused an estimated £214million of damage to 3,500 homes and 1,500 businesses. But there is reason to be concerned about another, ‘hidden’ consequence of the UK’s increasingly destructive weather – the harm it is doing to people’s mental health.

“The UK is also currently being left more vulnerable as a result of the worst public health crisis in a generation so even relatively minor flooding would place disproportionate strain on people’s jobs, finances and mental health. Therefore, as towns in Hampshire and the South of England are currently being hit by another storm and potential flooding, the impact would be magnified, with particularly severe consequences for the most vulnerable in society.”

A pilot last year showed seven out of 10 policy holders who sought the counselling were women over 30 – a demographic that it says could be struggling to balance work and family commitments during lockdown.

Those taking up the counselling will not be obliged to disclose the results of any clinical consultations with Zurich.

Zurich’s support service also covers free family caring, career coaching, debt and money management and legal information.